Scientists in the US have successfully eliminated HIV from mice transplanted with infected human immune cells, in the first study to successfully achieve this in an infected animal.
The new study from Temple University and the University of Pittsburgh builds on a previous study from the same team in 2016 in which HIV was eliminated from cells in lab dishes using the gene editing tool Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR).
“Our new study is more comprehensive,” associate professor at the Temple University, Wenhui Hu, who led the study, said in a statement.
“We confirmed the data from our previous work and have improved the efficiency of our gene editing strategy. We also show that the strategy is effective in two additional mouse models, one representing acute infection in mouse cells and the other representing chronic, or latent, infection in human cells.”
CRISPR, described as a “molecular scissors,” eliminated the virus using Ribonucleic acid (RNA) that searches for the HIV virus. Once identified, a special enzyme removed the virus from the cells.
Three “animal models” were tested in the study, including a successful test on a model containing mice transplanted with human immune cells, where HIV can often escape detection.
Results of the study were published in the journal Molecular Therapy.
“The next stage would be to repeat the study in primates, a more suitable animal model where HIV infection induces disease,” Hu said. “Our eventual goal is a clinical trial in human patients.”